More than 270 scientists have signed an open letter to Australia’s leaders calling on them to abandon partisan politics and take action on climate change.

They are calling for urgent action to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions

The scientists warn the impacts of climate change are coming faster, stronger and more regularly

The letter comes as the Australian Parliament sits for the first time this year and amid Australia’s ongoing bushfire crisis.

The scientists warned an increase in bushfires was just one part of a deadly equation that suggested the impacts of climate change were coming faster, stronger and more regularly.

Heatwaves on land and in the oceans were longer, hotter and more frequent, they said.

The scientists, who have expertise in climate, fire and meteorology, are calling for urgent action to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions and for Canberra to engage constructively in international agreements.

Australian National University climate scientist Nerilie Abram said the letter was the product of scientists’ despair as they witnessed the deadly fire season unfold.

“Scientists have been warning policymakers for decades that climate change would worsen Australia’s fire risk and yet these warnings have been ignored,” Professor Abram said.

“The thick, choking smoke haze of this summer is nothing compared to the policy smokescreen that continues in Australia,” University of NSW climate scientist Katrin Meissner said in a statement on Monday.

“We need a clear, non-partisan path to reduce Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions in line with what the scientific evidence demands, and the commitment from our leaders to push for meaningful global action to combat climate change.”

Oxfam

Oxfam said the Government must demonstrate it had fully grasped the lessons of this “horrific” bushfire season.

“In spite of the scientific evidence and the extreme weather we’re living through — bushfires, hailstorms and drought — the Government still hasn’t joined the dots and taken action to tackle the root causes of the crisis,” Oxfam chief executive Lyn Morgain said in a statement.

She said Australia must dramatically strengthen emissions reduction targets and move beyond fossil fuels.

“The Government’s narrow-minded focus on adaptation and resilience simply does not go far enough,” she said.

She said Australia could wield great authority and leverage globally if it changed its policies.

“If we led by example and immediately strengthened our own emissions reduction commitments, and if we linked our own crisis with those escalating around the world, we could be a great catalyst for stronger international action,” she said.

Climate emergency message resonates at world’s largest literature festival in Jaipur, India

Against the backdrop of India’s famed “pink city” of Jaipur, the capital of the Indian state of Rajasthan, the world’s largest literature festival hosted Renata Dessallien, the UN’s top representative in India on Monday, who told the audience attending a special session on the climate emergency, that the UN organization is working to slow the pace of climate crisis.

It is estimated that over 600 million Indians are likely to be impacted adversely by climate crisis.

Acclaimed as the “greatest literary show on Earth”, the five-day Jaipur Literature festival attracts more than 400,000 book lovers; around 2,000 speakers addressing more than 200 sessions; and authors from 20 different countries.

Questioned over whether the UN is doing enough to resolve the climate crisis, the UN’s Resident Coordinator in India, Renata Dessallien, quipped that the Organization could not act as a “global police” force.

“We are also not a global Government, so there are limits, to which the UN is mandated and on what it is able to do.”

“In fact”, she added, “we are pushing the limits on many fronts. The best way to describe the United Nations is that we are the ‘world persuader’ – persuading people to do what is fundamentally right.”

She lauded the UN’s pioneering role in the science relating to the impact of climate change, in the late 1980s, “when  a panel was established on climate change by the UN” known as the IPCC, which provides governments at all levels with trusted scientific information they can use to develop climate policies.

“So the science is out there and as an inter-governmental body we bring the nation states together to address the problem that’s staring us in the face, validated by the science.”

Ladakh

The session heard some startling stories of people living in India’s Ladakh region who are gravely affected by climate crisis.

Solar Energy Innovator, Educationist and Managing Director of Himalayan Institute of Alternatives in Ladakh, Sonam Wangchuk said: “Up in the mountains, across the Himalayas, particularly in Ladakh, our glaciers are melting and while we always had water shortages, now we are seeing droughts in the spring season.

“I know at least two villages where people had to abandon the whole village due to water (shortages). These droughts are now accompanied by flash floods in autumn.”

In 2006, while volunteering in one such village that was washed away, leading to many deaths, he had asked villagers when the last flash flooding had occurred, but “they didn’t remember. The same village had another flash flood in 2010, then in 2015 and then another one in 2017. So it’s now becoming as frequent as that.”

He appealed to the people living in the plains and the cities to be responsible and “live simply” so that the people of the mountains in turn, can ‘simply live’.

Tamil Nadu

Managing Editor of online journal PARI, Namita Waikar, who is chronicling the stories of how vulnerable populations across India are being most affected by climate crisis for the upcoming UNDP Human Development Report, chimed in with other first-hand accounts of how life is being adversely affected in the coastal cities.

“In the rural areas, there are communities in Tamil Nadu where seaweed farmers are forced to change livelihoods due to fast disappearing seaweeds.

Delhi

“Similarly, in places like Delhi, inland fishing communities are catching dead fish. What they told me was heart breaking.” Fishermen told Namita Waikar that if they lay the net at night, all they catch are the “freshest of the dead fish” in the morning. Keeping sewage and industrial waste out of rivers and coastal areas in an urgent priority, she said” “Another fisherwoman said that some of the fish they caught earlier are now only seen on the Discovery channel. That clearly explains the gravity of the situation.”

Appreciate the Universe

Writer, educator and filmmaker, Shubhangi Swarup, who is exploring ecology in her fiction, explained how she is integrating climate change themes into her work.

“Our stories have become human-centric, self-obsessed and obnoxious. We don’t have appreciation of nature and universe in our stories.

“So, I tried to write a novel where a geological fault line is the thread of the narrative. It begins with the Andaman (islands), goes to Myanmar, then Nepal and ends in Ladakh. While telling the story, I realized how ridiculous the political borders are when we are talking about solving local problems”, she said.

Profit or progress?

Civil Society Activist, Apoorva Oza, reiterated the need to take profit considerations out of the climate change debate: “There’s this excessive focus on measuring everything in economic terms. When I write a proposal they ask me whether I’ll double the farmers’ income. All I can tell you is that they will protect nature, they’ll sustain the environment, they’ll not over-exploit groundwater. But I can’t guarantee that I can double their incomes. I can only guarantee their progress.”

The session took a sombre turn when the famous Bollywood Actress and UN Advocate for Sustainable Development, Dia Mirza reached out to the audience and asked, “Do you have time? We just have a decade. Listen to women, listen to mothers, listen to children. And if you don’t understand science, just watch nature.”

The message was clear: everyone is responsible for creating a more environmentally sustainable world – And the arts and cultural sector is no exception.

As Moderator, Sameer Saran aptly concluded: “Since this festival is attended by the literati, stories come out of such places. If climate change becomes a part of these stories, we’ll be inspired to take better steps in mitigating climate change. Stories we tell about ourselves define our actions. And if our stories are green, then probably our future will also be green and prosperous.”


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